Historia and the Humble Brick
About 11,000 years ago several interesting things happened. Humanity started saving seeds and planting crops. We started breeding animals for their meat, milk and manure. And we invented pottery to store and cook our food. Any one of these developments by itself is extraordinary, yet they all occurred at (more or less) the same time!** Together they revolutionized human society more than any set of technologies has done since.
This was the Great Settling Down. The New Stone Age was totally different than the Old. Hundreds of thousands of years of tradition were thrown out the window. We no longer camped to survive, picking up everything with the seasons, moving from one animal migration to the next. We now stayed in one place to tend and improve its soil. The herds we used to chase, we now owned. Permanent settlements changed everything. Villages became cities. Populations surged. Competition for land spawned war. Trade led to math and writing and laws. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The next big technological advance after the settling down was The Brick. Around 9,000 years ago, we started forming clay into stubby rectangles and letting these uniform lumps bake in the sun. Now we could build walls faster and taller. Sure, bricks were great for dwellings, but they were even greater for city walls and temples, great big whopping temples. We immediately raced to build bigger and bigger structures. Every early civilization went through this phase. Megalithic constructions like Stonehenge could now be implemented in brick, and stone blocks began to be treated like brick. Ziggurats! Pyramids! Monumentalism got even more monumental.
Historia is a game that really captures the growth of civilization through the ages. I especially like how its game board simplifies the tech tree at the heart of most civ games. Historia's techs are arranged as a march of progress. This tech track hits all the high points: the invention of the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine, etc. It stumbles in only one respect – it depicts the development of agriculture and the domestication of animals as separate events. We can quibble about just how distinct these events were, but given the scale of the tech track, separating them misrepresents the timing of these developments.
I think a better fit for the third spot on Historia's tech track is the development of brick. This occurred about half way between the Neolithic Revolution (agriculture/herding/pottery) and the development of metal working (about 7000 years ago). Historia's board also represents the polity emerging at this point in history as villages built with brick surrounded by brick walls. Jericho! How perfect is that?
Speaking of which, the progression of governments on the game board is elegant except for the name of that Jerichoan government. Historia names it (government two, shown in orange) "Nomadic." Wha?! Since agriculture is invented near the beginning of government one, if any government in the game could be typified as nomadic it would be that one, and even then only in a minor way. Furthermore, as already mentioned, the settlements of period two were permanent thanks to... the brick! Government two is better characterized, in my opinion, by the monumentalist nations that emerged just after Jericho: Egypt and Sumer.
It's with these things in mind that I offer another humble player aid. I appreciate the text-free design of Historia and the language independence that grants the game. However, I'm a wordy fellow and desired a summary of the names of the governments and technologies in the game. Here is that summary with the thematic tweaks discussed above. These minor changes in nomenclature do not change any rules of the game, they just indulge my passion for the history of civilization.
**Actually, pottery was developed significantly earlier (about 20,000 years ago) in China but wasn't found in the eastern Mediterranean (the seat of the Neolithic Revolution) until about 9,000 years ago. The neolithic started without pots and pitchers but made good use of them once the idea of pottery made its way to, or fruited in, the region.
Because pottery was such an important technology in the development of civilization, I think it deserves a spot on Historia's tech track. However, adding a third icon to the Neolithic Revolution-cluster is just too much for the track. Nonetheless, I include it (in my mind) by folding it into the core technologies of the Neolithic Revolution despite the fact that it both pre-dates and post-dates the Revolution. Sometimes provenance is a bitch.